Against All Odds

Optimism and drive are two things Paul Albrighton has in abundance. A successful real estate agent for Remax Crest Realty in Vancouver, Paul has worked hard to become one of the top realtors in Vancouver, achieving MLS Medallion status for the last twelve years. He is also the father of a beautiful five-year-old daughter. However, his list of accomplishments includes something that few people can comprehend: triple transplant recipient and three-time cancer survivor.

As a young child, Paul experienced severe health challenges. His intestines were not functioning normally, leading to countless days spent in the hospital or receiving assisted care at home. He required a feeding tube and a permanent intravenous line to supply his body with enough nutrients to survive. At just eight years old, Paul underwent an intestine transplant at the Children’s Hospital in London, Ontario. It was 1994 and there were very few people undergoing this type of transplant, and even fewer children. Despite the experimental nature of the surgery, the transplant was successful and proved transformational for Paul.

A New Chapter Begins

For the first time in four years, Paul felt free. Free of the tubes, nursing care and endless hospital admissions. He was able to run around and play with his friends and siblings without tubes getting in the way. Because of the gift a young girl gave when her parents said yes to organ donation, Paul had a second chance. He was a regular at BC Children’s Hospital during his adolescence, requiring frequent and ongoing monitoring, essential components of post-transplant life.

Paul’s greatest source of joy is his family

To say the journey has been eventful would be a dramatic understatement. Due to the toxicity of the anti-rejection medication, combined with the lasting effects of his childhood illness, Paul’s kidney function began to decline when he was in his late teens. This resulted in the need for a kidney transplant at 21 years old. He has also endured three bouts of post-transplant lymphoma, a type of cancer experienced by transplant recipients.

Facing a New Challenge

Unfortunately, his transplanted kidney began to fail in early 2018, resulting in the need for dialysis and a second kidney transplant. Dialysis proved far more draining than Paul could have imagined. Luckily his search for a living donor was short lived, with his brother being cleared as a perfect match. Once the upheaval of the pandemic subsided, Paul underwent a successful second kidney transplant in August 2020. The miracle of transplantation never ceases to amazes him, “Organ donation, whether living or deceased, not only saves lives but it greatly impacts a person’s quality of life. I almost forgot how amazing it is to actually feel good!”

Immense Appreciation

Resiliency is a defining characteristic of Paul, but so is graciousness and generosity. He never forgets that his four chances at life are because of the incredible gifts of organ donation. He also has immense gratitude for the staff at Vancouver General Hospital, including his transplant team, surgeons and clinicians. They have enabled him to live a relatively normal life while providing exceptional care.

Recognizing that his very existence is related to the advances in transplant medicine over the decades, Paul feels very strongly about giving back, “I feel that I am alive today due to science and research. I work very hard in my business so I can donate one per cent of my profits to the Transplant Research Foundation of BC.”

Looking towards the future, Paul imagines a day where medication used to prevent rejection in transplanted organs is less potent and carcinogenic, dramatically improving recipients’ quality of life, “Through research, the long-term survival of recipients can be increased, leading transplant to become better and better. Perhaps it will even evolve to the point of not just being a treatment but an actual cure.”

A private person, Paul is sharing his story in the hope that he will inspire other people in their own transplant journey to never give up.